Oberlin City Council fired a warning shot past the Ohio House of Representatives April 4 when they released a resolution opposing House Bill 48. The resolution cited Oberlin’s Bill of Rights and the powers it grants the council to exercise home-rule and self-governance.
“The prohibition of the ability of municipalities to determine where a person may carry a concealed handgun within those municipalities has undermined a sense of safety within those communities and has contributed to the accidental injuries to and deaths of innocent persons,” the resolution states.
The “Guns Everywhere” Bill, sponsored by Representative Ron Maag, would expand the areas where permit holders could carry concealed guns to include college campuses, police stations, daycare centers and parts of airport terminals.
Colleges and universities that allow open carry on their campuses would be granted legal immunity for injuries or deaths that may result from the presence of weapons.
According to John Elder, OC ’53 and former pastor at First Church in Oberlin, gun lobbyists have spent recent years seeking to reduce gun restrictions put in place by the Ohio legislature.
“House Bill 48 is just the most recent version of this effort,” Elder wrote in an email to the Review.
While supporters of the bill say the measure would provide a deterrent to possible gun violence, City Council Vice President Linda Slocum is concerned by what could be the significant expansion of areas where concealed carry is permitted.
“Open and conceal[ed] carry advocates visited a public park in 2013, precipitating much public interest and resulting in a legal action,” Slocum said in an email to the Review. “It was then that most of us became aware that Ohio laws permit the carrying of guns in many public spaces and expressly forbid local governments from passing laws to the contrary.”
According to Slocum, after the 2013 demonstration, a group of Oberlin residents — including councilmembers Sharon Soucy, Bryan Burgess and Linda Slocum — went to Columbus, Ohio, to testify on child safety legislation in an effort to keep a closer eye on proposed relaxations on gun restrictions.
2013 was also the year that Oberlin’s Community Bill of Rights passed with more than 70 percent of the vote. While the Bill of Rights was originally drafted in response to Spectra Energy rerouting a portion of the NEXUS Pipeline through Oberlin, Slocum said that it could also be used as an affirmation of local control over safety and health issues.
“A concealed carry permit provides for a lawabiding citizen to discretely carry a handgun for self protection,” City Council Member Bryan Burgess wrote on Facebook on April 6. “It does not deputize that person to enforce the law, protect the public, and assume the duties of a plain clothes officer in an active shooter situation.”
Burgess sponsored an amendment to the council’s resolution, calling for common sense handgun regulations and revoking immunity for private employers who allow employees to carry firearms on business premises.
“If any employer permits their employees to carry weapons, they ought to bear legal liability for the use of those weapons,” Burgess wrote. “House Bill 48 extends the irresponsibility of state legislators who believe public spaces are safer when the public is armed.”
According to Elder, a petition to pass an amendment to the Ohio Constitution to return home-rule to communities with respect to gun regulation gathered 300 signatures last month.
The proposed amendment states that the local self-government and police powers reserve the right to form and enforce their own regulations on the sale, transfer, transport, use or storage of any firearms within their own geographical limits. These rights would only have to align with the rights outlined in the Constitution’s second amendment.
House Bill 48 is currently in the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee, where it will undergo more hearings.
“With the right to bear firearms comes the responsibility to account for their use, whether unintentional or deliberate,” Burgess said.